As humans, we have evolved the most incredible ability to imagine things being different from how they are. It was has enabled us to plan and implement huge civilization sized projects, create agriculture, industry and science, huge cities and infrastructure. It is central to who we now are as a species. But this ability carries significant risks, one of which is that we may become confused between how things are, the reality we face and how we would like things to be. This is potentially lethal, especially in conflict and this blog is dedicated to helping you get data rational about any conflict situation you face, using the Seven Step Creative Conflict Model at the head of the home page. Take a look at the Getting Real Stage which suggests that in writing you map out what you know you know about the situation you face and the evidence to support that, what you know you don’t know and how you plan to find out, what you don’t know you know or the things you may know but have missed including and the most lethal of all: what we don’t know we don’t know. If only some folk used this…more below for who…
My friend Keith Stanovich of Toronto University has written extensively on the concept of dysrationality, or the tendency of smart people to use their smarts in unwise ways, especially to wall off their prejudiced (from the sense of prejudged in Latin) conclusions from counter evidence. I guess Karl Rove is the new poster child for this, having taken over from Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney, the past poster children for big brains badly deployed.
In the recent US Presidential Election, this blog made no secret of whom it supported, under the rubric of conservative Edmund Burke’s aphorism: ‘nothing is required for the triumph of evil than that good men do nothing’. And I took much flack for this, though actually my political stance is about equal to Republican President Eisenhower on most issues: really radical. 🙂
But to me what was most wrong with Mitt Romney, with the Republican Party goes much deeper than being mistaken on specific policies, on changing with the wind on specific policies, in what I saw as profoundly dishonest way. What I saw that approached evil was a willful disregard of reality, a delusional attitude towards reality of the sort that got so many Americans, and its allies and so many more Iraqis killed. The Republicans not liking what they saw about America invented a narrative about it that for many had a ‘Communist Muslim non American born Black man’ in the White House. But their data denial went much deeper and so I thought it would be interesting to do one of our Top Ten Tips on the GOP’s Dysrationality:
- The whole birther issue was symptomatic of the disease and gave brand GOP a distinctly nutty flavor from the get go. When Donald Trump embraced this, the lunatics really had taken over the asylum…
- The Republicans met after the last election and decided to do everything to make sure President Obama was a one term President regardless of the effect on the country. Now I happen to think that the President did not play well against this in the early years, but the ignore that Mitch McConnell decision and kid yourself and your followers that the political divide was all the Presidents doing is delusional, even if it fed the base’s bigotry
- The deficit we currently face is if you look at the data, if you go to non-partisan organizations like the Office for Budget Responsibility, you will see that it is largely the effect of the Bush tax cuts, the cost of two wars, the downturn in the economy reducing tax rates and increasing spending on unemployment insurance and the financial stimulus that continues what Bush did quite sensibly to stop a return to the 1930s. There is very little discretionary additional spending, so to paint President Obama as an irresponsible deficit creator is again good stuff for the base, but delusional and most people outside the base know this as polling on the issue would have revealed. Most folk know there just haven’t been many new spends and healthcare saves money and isn’t implemented so isn’t in a real world part of the equation.
- To attack 47% of the population for dependency was political suicide, but also plain wrong. The categories included in the 47% were not illustrative of Mitt Romney’s argument. And if you want to look at dependency there are plenty of candidates not in Mitt Romney’s 47% including the rich and their tax breaks and the recipients of wasteful defense pork spending and lots of other special interests which Tea Party folk in the House have been stampeding to feed. My point is not that there are no problems of dependency, but that the GOP did no real analysis prior to its leaked conclusions that distorted its relationship to key electoral groups. It was data irrational on the 47%.
- Of all the failures of data rationality, the one with the most long term devastating effects is the Republican war on science. By bringing into the Republican tent the southern fundamentalist anti-science, anti-evolution brigade, the GOP has moved so far from Eisenhower’s passionate commitment to fund science with Federal funds and pass the Defense Education Act to keep American intellectually competitive. I have not heard a single Republican politician comment on the immense breakthroughs on say the Human Genome project, because to do so would bring down the wrath of the denialist (spell check objected to this word and hilariously suggested ‘Stalinist’ as the alternative 🙂 ) anti evolution crowd and the creationists who are destroying science education in the South. My friend Kate, who is a scientist, has told me that Mitt Romney did well when interviewed on science by a science organization, but that is not how his party is. The majority of registered Republican voters apparently believe in demonic possession, so are locked into a 17th century pre-scientific world view and that is not compatible with a modern science based economy.
- This of course links straight into the most massive piece of data denialism: the GOP’s denial of the reality of human induced climate change on the grounds presumably that if it accepted the reality, it would have to do something about it and that would likely involve more government role. This is unacceptable ideologically so climate change can’t be happening whatever the data says. And Sandy turned up and made this seem absurd…though one weather event doesn’t prove anything, it was illustrative of the future.
- Republican foreign policy is based on profound ignorance of the outside world, a complete lack of knowledge unprecedented in Republican Party history. Sarah Palin’s ignorance is legendary, and typical of the GOP base, I suppose. But Mitt Romney the Republican candidate on a well rehearsed debate on foreign policy managed to assert that Iran’s route to the ocean was via Syria: duh. Never looked at an atlas in your life Mitt? This is grade school level failure and the GOP has no plans to fix the appalling state of education in the South where its base has its heartland.
- The Republican attitude to women and women’s issue was so kamikaze as to belong in its own category of delusion. The idea that its stance would appeal to educated professional women with whom it utterly failed to resonate. And it’s Senator’s advocacy of the crazy idea that women who are raped can induce spontaneous abortion or its not rape….la la land…
- Immigration is another area where prejudice and bigotry and total lack of understanding of the data delude the GOP and caused it to make catastrophic political errors like the crack down on illegal immigrants in places like Georgia. What were they thinking data rationally and politically? Well they were thinking: red meat to the base I guess. But they didn’t even talk to farmers who depend utterly on the immigrant labor force..
- And finally, the Republican defeat in the polls was also illustrative and the result of the bigoted denial of what objective analysis of polls on voter intent were telling anyone who cared to listen and which drove the brilliant get out the vote efforts of the Democratic wonk driven election strategy. Never I have seen so much dysrationality on display as on election night on Fox News with the high point Karl Rove’s refusal to accept the Ohio result. Great television! So I end on the words that drove the GOP crazy before the election: Nate Silver!
Anyway, I doubt a single Republican will read this posting, would understand what I am getting at, would not put up their smarts to deny even this piece on their data denial. And so I end with another counter piece of data, for fun’s sake, as it is also not really data rational but still good to shake preconceptions: the election result mapped by state voting for the President adjusted for the populations of the states. This exaggerates the result by ignoring the minority result in the states, but, hey, see it as a piece of art not data so as not to repeat the Republican data delusional confusion of what you want with what is reality: